Ep 20: 

We are now in complete darkness and tonights events are headed off in a new direction. The Right Chancellor realizes that he underestimated the threat and tonight’s problems are bigger than simply a couple of wolf squad members. Interestingly, he wants Li Bi to continue investigating and even tells Ji Wen to help Li Bi, surreptitiously of course, if needed.


In any case, Li Bi is currently questioning a mortally wounded 曹破延. This guy has a freaking sword still through him and is still alive, just barely. In the last episode, Li Bi gave him a pill to eat that will give him a last burst of energy before dying so that 曹破延 can share crucial information about today’s events. I do like this scene quite a bit however. Li Bi explains to 曹破延 that today’s events show the wolf squad members were just brought in as a diversion. Whoever their leader was did not care about sacrificing the wolf squad. After all, even if they manage to bomb Chang An, the ire of the Tang dynasty will turn to the wolf squad. They will be destroyed while the person or organization who instigated this behind the scenes will get away scott free. 


This deeply impacts Cao Po Yan as he now realizes they were probably set up and sacrificed. He shouts the words 右刹 and mutters the words 十字莲花 or a lotus cross, the only clues he leaves to Li Bi. He clutches his necklace and imagines seeing his daughter in a beautiful field of flowers before breathing his last breath. 


Li Bi takes this information first to Xu Bin in order to see if he has any idea what this lotus cross could mean and then he heads back to meet Zhang Xiao Jing. Earlier in the episode, Zhang Xiao Jing had been resting in the secret hiding place which is actually a temple. He gets into a bit of an argument with Yao Ru Neng as Zhang Xiao Jing was able to smell Wen Ran’s perfume on Yao Ru Neng and asked about her whereabouts. Yao Ru Neng does not want to reveal to him where she is and is still highly confused as to why Zhang Xiao Jing can do everything today to save Chang An for nothing in return. It doesn’t make sense.  Zhang XIao Jing turns and sits down before listing out a bunch of names. Names of his fellow soldiers that will never be able to see Chang An. Zhang Xiao Jing tells Yao Ru Neng and Tan Qi that Wen Ran is their hope. They all wanted to see and be in Chang An. Wen Ran will be the one to live that dream. 


Yao Ru Neng checks in on the prison cell where he left Wen Ran last only to find that she has escaped. He hurriedly returns to tell Zhang Xiao Jing but Li Bi is also present. Zhang Xiao Jing also finally opens up to Li Bi as to Wen Ran’s importance to him in the wake of tonight’s events. 


Li Bi accepts Zhang Xiao Jing’s explanation and turns to more important matters. He shares that Cao Po Yan mentioned this lotus cross. They reaffirm their trust in one another because that is the only way they’ll be able to succeed tonight and also eat some food to replenish energy before the upcoming slog. 


Xu Bin arrives shortly after and informs the group that the lotus cross must reference a church. Most likely, this You Cha has hidden himself inside a Persian monastery. The group, Xu Bin, Zhang Xiao Jing, Li Bi and Tan Qi, then consult a map of Chang An because there are numerous monasteries in the city. They need to narrow down where You Cha might have hidden himself. At this point, Tan Qi cautiously and respectfully suggests that You Cha must have picked a place where he would be able to view the events of today, that is hidden but also somewhere he is able to connect with the buyer of his information. He needs to be somewhere that can be linked everywhere. LI Bi lands on Yi Ning fang in the northwest part of the city.


Zhang xiao jing requests for Tan Qi to accompany him in his search for this You Cha person and next thing we know, they are out in the splendid streets on the next part of their adventure. The evening’s festivities are in full swing with wonderful lanterns displayed everywhere. Zhang Xiao Jing and Tan Qi head over to a church and we westerners! I’m not sure what the correct term is to call them. Monks? Priests? Missionaries? Regardless, they are definitely not of east asian descent and we see them handing out crosses and other pamphlets.  Zhang Xiao Jing takes this opportunity to go undercover. He makes up a story that his wife, aka Tan Qi, dreamt of a god last night who stood on a lotus and a cross and said that a priest fated to her is coming to Chang An. They are here at this persian monastery to look for this priest. Tan Qi is at first a little surprised to hear him address her as such but then settles into the role. She asks the monk whether or not there is a royal looking priest that has entered into Chang An recently. The monk says there are too many people who come in and out of the city and invites them inside the church to ask one of his colleagues.


They are brought to meet Yi Si. The english translation on Youtube calls him Deacon Isse which I think works. I’m just going to call him Yisi. And Yisi’s Chinese is very fluent! Plus he’s one of my favorite characters in the book/show! Tan Qi takes this opportunity to ask Yisi about this mysterious priest once more. He says he does know about a priest that fits their profile and then takes them to a confession room where he will bring the priest shortly. Except, after Tan Qi and Zhang Xiao Jing make their way inside the confession room, YiSi promptly locks them in. 


He’s not a bad person though and was listening outside of the room when Tan Qi and Zhang XIao Jing fake a conversation of impending peril on the church. But, in such enclosed quarters, you can see the pink hearts fluttering in the air as Zhang XIao Jing takes this opportunity and sneaks a kiss from Tan Qi before YiSi bursts in to hear exactly what peril will befall the church. Come on! Yisi! Though tbh I don’t know exactly how i feel about this whole romance storyline. In the book, none of this happens. 


In any case, Yisi immediately shows off his adorably naive self. He reveals he only locked the two in because he could tell they weren’t married by the hesitant glances the two gave to each other and he wanted to protect the church. Zhang XIao Jing then also reveals his identity of working for Jing An Si. He then ups the pressure to Yisi because the church has been harboring a terrorist that could further harm Chang An. Yisi is freaking out because he has no idea what or how this all happened and has no option but to help Zhang XIao Jing. The person they are looking, You Cha, does seem to be hiding in this church and Yi Si sees this as a great opportunity to put the roman church on the map in Chang An. If he can help find and apprehend this You Cha, then hopefully, the Tang emperor will grand him and his church with more ____ [word please].


Just in time as well. The episode closes with a hooded figure in a white rob rushing back to his living quarters before looking up and seeing masked assassins. 


That closes out our episode. The only other piece I’d like to highlight is that Wen Ran has escaped and reconvened with Long Bo but not before slapping Yu Chang across the face a few times for what she did earlier in the day. As for the assassins off to kill this man in white robes? Sent by Long Bo. 



After 20 episode, we say goodbye to 曹破延. He fought valiantly for his people but paid the price. He’s portrayed by 吴晓亮 who actually is of the Mongolian ethnic minority. The actor has been in several dramas over the years but mainly in supporting roles. You’ll sorely be missed!


Now onto history


First! Before they all leave the secret hideout, 檀棋 brings forth what looks like modern day fried sesame balls. Instead, she called them 油锤 which directly translates to oil hammer haha. During the song dynasty, there are records stating that 油锤 was eaten during the Lantern festival and the Ghost festival. These records also documented how people during the Song dynasty prepared them. I couldn’t find anything specific from the Tang Dynasty but this is close enough. 


The ball itself is made of sweet bean paste, date paste, and an assortment of nuts such as walnut, peanuts, and pine nuts. They are the filling that’s wrapped in sticky rice flour made wrapper. They’re rolled into a circular shape, fried, and rolled in more sesame and voila! 油锤. It’s slightly different from today’s sesame balls because those are typically just with sesame paste or else red bean paste but i don’t think this 油锤 is that hard to make.

When 檀棋 and 张小敬 walk through the hordes of people, they stop by a bunch of people smelling candles. Zhang Xiao Jing noted that people did this to extend life because the candles themselves were called 吸烛寿 or inhaling live candles. This whole custom is actually an invention by the author. Yes – scented candles were used then but not for this purpose. 




This is really famous from Dao De Jing – the foundational text of Daoism and written approximately in 400BC by Lao Zi. This text had a huge influence on Chinese philosophy including Confucianism, Legalism, and Chinese Buddhism. In an episode filled with references to religion, why not also include Daosim? As we see in this episode, religion does take many shapes and forms and aren’t always black and white. There’s heavy influences of the different religions with each other. 


I found a pretty good translation of the phrase online.


Heaven and Earth are impartial;

They see the ten thousand things as

straw dogs.

The wise are impartial;

They see the people as straw dogs. 


The reason why I say that it’s a good translation is because if one takes the phrase literally, the heaven and earth are heartless, they see the ten thousand things as straw dogs, one would say, hm…why is such a phrase in Dao De Jing?


Let’s parse it down a bit more – 刍狗 or straw dogs were used for religious ceremonies in ancient times. If people didn’t want to sacrifice a live animal, they would sacrifice this 刍狗. Once the ceremony was complete, it was tossed aside. So if someone took the literal translation, that would further validate that the heaven and earth don’t care. 


But reading the whole phrase including the the second phrase of 圣人 or the wise. They can’t be heartless but more impartial. The heaven and earth views everything equally. 


This phrase pops up A LOT in different dramas and books. Jade Dynasty, a book i thoroughly enjoyed when I was younger, had this phrase as a major theme. The drama Noble Aspirations which is based off the book…had a lot to be desired from it.

Next – the female assassin with Long Bo is back to being a pain in the butt. She’s salty that he sent other assassins and states the reason why she’s called 鱼肠 is because she’s just as lethal and deadly as the famous Sword Yu Chang.


Yu Chang as a sword was forged by the legendary sword maker 欧冶子. He lived some time during the Spring and Autumn period over 2500 years ago. Commissioned by the king of Yue, he forged 5 swords in 3 years including 湛zhàn卢、纯钧jūn、胜邪、鱼肠、巨阙què. Later, he was commissioned by the king of Chu to forge 3 more swords 龙渊、泰阿、工布


The Yu Chang Sword is considered the sword of bravery. As documented in the history of assassins, which is a chapter from the Records of the Grand historian written by Si Ma Qian in the 1st century BC. The Yu Chang sword was hidden with the intestines of a fish by the assassin 专诸 to specifically kill the King of Wu. 


There’s several legends as to the naming of the sword. Taken literally, 鱼肠 means fish intestines. Some say that the sword got its name from the engravings on the hilt – the weaves look somewhat like a cooked fish intestine. However, others say that it’s potentially because the assassin 专诸 hid the sword inside fish intestines which is how it got its name. 


Regardless – this sword is lost to history now but it was named the 10 most famous swords in history. 


And now onto the major topic for today! Western religion! Specifically the Church of the East in China. When 曹破延 died, he gave the major clue of 十字莲花 or the Lotus Cross. Zhang Xiao Jing and Tan Qi head off to find the Church but were originally lead astray because they thought they were looking for a Persian church of some kind but instead they found a Nestorian Church. 


I won’t go into a full history on Nestorianism but it began its eastward expansion during the 4th and 5th centuries after establishing itself in Persia. Missionaries most likely made it to China by the 6th. According to the Jingjiao Stele which was unearthed in 1625 and erected in 781, it states that in 635 during the reign of Tang Emperor Tai Zong, the missionary Alopen gained recognition in the Tang Court. They traveled from the Eastern Roman Empire or Da Qin to the east bringing with them sacred texts and images. 阿罗本和21位传教士带来了530部经书. The translation of the Stele includes the title Memorial of the Propagation in China of the Luminous Religion from Daqin.


The Nestorians apparently changed the name to JingSi or Luminous Religion with the hopes of being able to more easily spread the religion. I mean Nestorianism is a mouthful compared to just 景教.


In english, they were known as the Church of the East. But because they came from china, these “churches” were called 波斯寺 or translated literally Persian churches. These missionaries were able to practice in China rather peacefully for 200 years including during the reign of Tang Xuan Zong that we are now. Apparently this Emperor bestowed upon the Church of the East portraits of the 5 previous Tang Dynasty emperors to place in the Church. This typically didn’t happen but, the missionaries wanted to assimilate to the local culture and agreed to have these portraits hung in the monastery. That also might hint to why under the cross, there’s also the bed of lotus flowers. There was a heavy influence of buddhism in China and lotus flowers are a symbol in buddhism. It’s not a stretch to believe there some influence from buddhism to this church of the east. During its peak in the Tang Dynasty, the empire had over 100 churches with over 200k followers. 


What’s interesting is it’s only in 745 did the Emperor change the name of these churches from Persian Temples to 大秦寺 or Roman temples. 


We’ll talk a bit more about who the mysterious deacon is in next week’s episode! 


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